GRAND FORKS — Here’s a stat that will probably surprise anyone who watched Saturday night’s U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game between UND and Arizona State in Las Vegas.
Possession time in the offensive zone — at even strength — was 24 minutes, 17 seconds for UND and 17:53 for Arizona State.
That’s a whopping 58 percent to 42 percent advantage for the Fighting Hawks, who despite that disparity, only mustered 15 shots on goal in a 3-2 loss to the Sun Devils.
Arizona State blocked 22 shots and largely kept the Fighting Hawks to the outside as evidenced by the number of point-blank shots each team generated. Arizona State had 11 attempts and eight on net from the critical area. UND had five attempts and only one on net.
UND will head to Omaha this weekend to open up National Collegiate Hockey Conference play with a two-game series at Baxter Arena (7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Midco Sports).
The Fighting Hawks are the three-time reigning Penrose Cup winners as NCHC regular-season champions. UND has only won three-straight league titles one other time in program history. Former coach Dean Blais’ squads did it in 1997, 1998 and 1999. UND has never won four-straight.
This Fighting Hawks team will attempt to do that. But first, UND needs to solve some issues the first month of the season exposed as it went 3-3-1 in nonconference play.
“I think we need to be harder on pucks,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Puck possession starts with the entry side of it, and once you get in the offensive zone, not being one-and-done. Once we’re in the offensive zone, we probably need to get a little more shot-first mentality and net-front. There are a number of things that require that, and obviously, we didn’t do enough of it last Saturday night.”
Offensive zone time has not been a problem this season for UND.
The Fighting Hawks have had the edge in five of their seven games. Only the two games on the road at Minnesota did the opponent have the puck more in the offensive zone.
But it hasn’t always equated to chances and goals.
“I think we were playing pretty sloppy as of late,” UND defenseman Tyler Kleven said. “It’s just hitting tapes and being crisp. When we get in the zone, we can know where other players are by communicating. I think we need to get more shots on net, too, and create more havoc in the O-zone. Those are things that can help generate offense.”
Defensively, UND has plenty of room to improve, too.
After allowing just one goal in a weekend sweep of Holy Cross to open the season, the Fighting Hawks have allowed 21 goals in the last five games (4.2 per game).
UND goalie Drew DeRidder said dropping the team’s goals-against by one would make a big difference.
“I was actually thinking about this over the weekend and on the flight back from Las Vegas,” DeRidder said. “I think I have to have one less goal a weekend, and that will allow us to have better results. This weekend, one less goal puts us at 2-2 going to overtime. Last weekend, it puts us at a win in regulation one game, and a win in overtime the other night. One less goal from me would go a long way.”
Offensive zone time at even strength
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Baxter Arena, Omaha.
Records: UND 3-3-1, Omaha 4-3-1.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).